The Opportunity Cost of Opportunities

“Opportunity isn’t a chance; it’s a choice. And it is the choices we make that define the paths our lives will take.” -Robin Wizowaty, author of My Maasai Life

I live my life by this quote, believing strongly that choices, not chances, are what have allowed me to get where I am today, sitting here in the sunshine in southwestern Ethiopia.  This quote has allowed me to put my heart and my passion before common sense  ‘smart’ decisions quite a few times, decisions that have allowed me to grow and become the person I am today. The first time I really used this quote to make a tough decision was when I chose to go for an optional hike when I was on a volunteer trip my first summer in Kenya. That hike led to me meeting the Principal at a school 80km away from the nearest town, hospital, or market. The night before this optional morning hike, I did not sleep, sick with a bad case of food poisoning that kept me up in our camp feeling horrible all through the cold night.. I made the choice to get myself up and out of that tent the next morning. It was a choice that led to meeting a man who had dedicated his life to a school, to a group of children, like no one I had ever before met, and I left his office crying because I had been so awe-inspired and amazed at his commitment to the education of the children in the region. For me, it is the opportunities such as that optional hike that define who I have become.

In ‘The Beginning,’ my first blog post, I promised I would explain my strange “A World of Oysters” blog title in my second post, so get ready, it is a little, or maybe a lot, abstract. “The world is your oyster,” is a common quote most of us have heard before, but what does it mean? I see it meaning  that the world is different for every one of us, and is defined by whatever experiences each and every one of us  chooses to live. The world is full of paths, of options, of opportunities – of oysters, and the choices that take us down one path versus another, maybe by chance, but more often by choice, define who we are. From my experience, the world is full of these potential experiences, these opportunities presented at each and every twist and turn in our lives. “A World of Oysters” is a blog, but more importantly a community focused on the experiences and moments that define who we are and the world around every single one of us just waiting to be defined. In short Oysters represent the opportunities each of us are presented with during our journey through life, a world of choices that lead to us adding meaning to our own “world maps,” as I discussed in ‘The Beginning’. A comment by Mary Jane on my first post about the book Oyster A World History led me to do some research on actual oysters, and they are a very interesting species that have been around since the time of dinosaurs! However you connect with my blog title, whether with a love for seafood or a love for pursuing opportunities, I welcome you with open arms!

With every opportunity, or oyster, there comes an opportunity cost, a concept that has been weighing heavily on my mind today. For those of you non-introduction to economics students reading “A World of Oysters,” an opportunity cost is the thing you must forgo when you make a decision, think of it as the next best option. For example, for me to go on a three-month internship to Ethiopia, I had to decline my acceptance to attend an amazing-looking three week course on Social Movements and Social Change in Brazil. So yes to Ethiopia meant I had to forego the opportunity to go to Brazil.

To be the type of person who jumps at opportunities, that person always running from one thing I love doing to the next, it doesn’t come without its consequences. To be brutally honest, I do not see my family, both immediate and extended, nearly enough. I don’t have friends I text every day, and almost all the time I am not anchored in one place because of school, I am off pursuing an opportunity or a project, be it a program in Boston or an internship in Ethiopia. This lifestyle often makes me miss the important moments in the lives of those I love. I write this post just after receiving emails from my sister regarding her high school graduation ceremony I missed yesterday. Firstly, I missed my only sibling’s high school graduation ceremony yesterday, but that is not all. My sister found out while crossing the stage that she had won not one but two scholarships, totaling $6,000! I was so proud when reading her email, but very emotional that I wasn’t there to support my sister during this big moment in her life.

It’s tough living a life where the best opportunities don’t often fit well around the family reunions, graduation ceremonies, and holiday get-togethers. Then why do I do it? I do it because I genuinely believe that I have a role to play in making this world a better place, doing everything in my power to bring opportunities to young people no different than I or my sister, with the only differentiating factor being place of birth. That is what keeps me going when I have to miss the graduation ceremonies, thinking of the work I can do for the young people whose dreams of education and graduation ceremoniescurrently on only just that – dreams.  

In this blog post I was hoping to tell you all about my adventures so far in Ethiopia, but although I wasn’t there, my sister’s graduation interrupted that plan, and today I had to talk today about the opportunity cost of opportunities. Stay tuned for my next blog post where I will be talking specifically about my day to day life here in Jimma.

But for now, this blog post is dedicated to my little sister, who I am so so proud of for her success as she finishes high school and looks ahead to adulthood and life at university.

Today in the comments, I would love to hear some of the opportunity costs you had to forgo in order to follow your heart and passion, and where that has taken you.

Thank you so much for reading; I look forward to reading your comments and hearing your stories!



6 Comments Add yours

  1. Hima says:

    The opportunity cost of me moving all the way to Halifax, Canada and studying commerce was to leave Dentistry in Cairo, Egypt. I decided to move away from my comfort zone a.k.a home, (for the 3rd time) and engulf myself in a place and community I’ve never even read about in a book! I never regretted a thing I have done in my life, because I know that everything I ever did was my own choice and if I can go back I would do it all the same way again! As every move I made, word I learned and experience I lived is what made me who I am today!

  2. mahmoud elhadary says:

    I truly believe in every word you just said, for a person to move forward, he have to give up on somethings in his life. and there will always be two options provided, one in which life will be normal, and the other will open more doors, letting you to challenge yourself, and it’s your choice which one you will take.
    waiting for your next blog.

  3. Reay Richter says:

    Wonderful post commemorating Paige’s graduation. Congratulations Paige. Thanks for making me tear up! I’m sure Paige knows that you ;6were there in spirit. I know a few other people that are missing you but are happy that you’re fulfilling your journey. Keep safe, hugs Reay

  4. George Woodhouse says:

    Hey Taylor,
    I left Sweden nearly 3 weeks ago to start my long indirect journey home. I bought myself a train pass and decided to visit old and new friends all across Europe. 2 days ago, I arrived in London only to fly out that evening to Iceland. After 2 incredible weeks staying and playing in the homes of friends and feeling filled with love and hospitality everyday – I now find myself in a beautiful but strange place. Iceland as you can imagine has redefined the meaning of “planet earth” for me in terms of landscape, but I feel now like I’m at the bittersweet end of a long journey, stuck somewhere between wanting to seize the day and wanting to just take all my amazing memories from Europe and just. be. home. So in response to your wonderful and refreshing post about opportunities, I say this: Sometimes, laid before you, there is a room of the most beautiful opportunities. It is a room full of doors. Behind those doors are the treasures of opportunity. Quite frankly, I’ve recently gotten used to friends leading me through door after door, amazing me with one thing after another – their home, their food, their friends.
    But in Iceland, I find myself standing here, feeling low on energy and slightly confused by all the new people and places I am suddenly surrounded by. In a place so beautiful and legendary, it’s hard to imagine feeling anything but awe and happiness. Iceland, however, is reminding me that happiness truly is more real when shared, and that we don’t always have good friends at our side to fill the void. I believe we never stop meeting people, and never stop making friends for a reason… because we need them. And sometimes when you feel far away from all the friends you’ve ever made, it just means there’s new ones waiting around the corner to help you make it through… to bring happiness to your heart, to teach you something and then show you something.
    May you keep attracting all the people, new and old, into your life who will teach you, learn from you and share with you real happiness.
    Look forward to the next blog my brother!

  5. Taylor Quinn says:

    Wow George, beautifully said. After time away, travelling to even more new places and experiencing new opportunities when the horizon of ‘home’ is tough emotionally, I know exactly what you mean. I have come to find what you have had is so true for me here in Ethiopia over the last few weeks. Close friends, people I connect with on a deeper level, are around every corner, just waiting to show their love for me. All I have to do is be open to these new opportunities and be willing to love back the newest of friends.

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